J.R. Burrows & Company

A Note on WILLIAM MORRIS Wallpapers,
Fabrics and Carpets.

picture of Katy Bishop

Burrows Studio offers a group of wallpapers by students, friends and neighbors of William Morris. Our wallpapers that most closely adhere to the design principles of the great master of pattern-making are 'Priory Garden,' 'Chrysanthemum,' and 'Peruvian Lily,' all drawn by students and contemporaries of Morris; these wallpapers were purchased in London by F. Holland Day, an acquaintance of Morris, for his house near Boston, Massachusetts. 'Summer Street Damask' which bears hints of the influence of Art Nouveau on English Arts & Crafts Movement design, was drawn by John Dando Sedding, an architect whose office was next door to Morris's shop in London in the 1880s. These Burrows Studio patterns exhibit the subtle elegance of tone-on-tone Morris designs, by far the most popular and best selling papers produced by Morris.

Morris generally designed products for only one form of manufacture, and characteristics of the pattern are uniquely suited to the production technique. However, a few of the most popular patterns were offered both as fabric and wallpaper prints: these include 'Larkspur,' 'Marigold,' 'Bird & Anemone.' Shortly before Morris's death in 1896, his company adapted his popular 'Willow Boughs,' 'Little Scroll,' wallpaper patterns as fabric prints, and 'Powdered' was issued as a fabric after the turn-of-the-century. By far, the majority of Morris designs were offered only as wallpaper, a fabric print or woven textile.

Morris would have abhored the modern practice of decorating by matching every item of fabric and wallpaper in the same design and colorway. He thought of decorating as an art, an art of creating beauty in rooms through the selection and balance of patterns and use of a full palette of colors, and he preferred his designs to be mixed together and not 'matched.' In the great Morris rooms, several colors dominate (quiet greens, golds, ruddy madder reds and deep indigo blues dominate his color palette), and, as in nature, splashes of bolder accent colors in the carpets, textiles, wallpapers and ceramics add interest. As more groupings of colors were incorporated into a room design, there was less concern for exact matches of dye lots (something nearly impossible to guarantee with the natural pigments and dyes that Morris preferred), as the room would take on the full array of shades and colorings found in a country garden. (The Drawing Room and bedrooms of Standen, reproduced in many books on William Morris, exemplify the best of Morris interiors.) When document colorings of his designs are used today, even from a variety of sources, the same beautiful results will be achieved.


William Morris Products Today.

Questions are frequently asked regarding the sources of authentic Morris designs. After some initial experiments with manufacturing, Morris contracted out production of his many of the products he designed; when Morris & Company ceased business in 1940, three major firms retained Morris designs and all have continued to manufacture those patterns that they originally supplied.

Best known is Arthur Sanderson & Sons Ltd., who acquired the original woodblocks for the Morris & Company wallpapers, and have continued to manufacture them under that name. Sandersons wallpaper books are now distributed throughout the United States at fine wallpaper outlets, as well as through showrooms open exclusively to interior designers. Their wallpaper books are periodically updated and a selection of patterns have been adapted as machine prints with matching drapery and upholstery fabric (fabric patterns are adapted from original wallpaper designs).

Morris's printed fabric designs were retained by Stead McAlpin & Co., their original manufacturer. This firm not directly market their prints, but some are sold in England through the John Lewis Partnership. Liberty of London also sells a collection of Morris fabric patterns, printed near the site of Morris's works at Merton. 'Strawberry Thief' and 'Chrysanthemum' are included in the current offering, both on cotton (as were the original Morris prints) and a heavier linen union. Liberty fabrics are marketed by Osbourne & Little in the United States at showrooms open exclusively to interior designers.

Morris's woven carpets were manufactured by Woodward Grosvenor & Company since the 1910s, and more than a dozen designs are retained in their archives. The 'Lily' pattern has remained the favorite pattern and is the best known machine woven carpet design as it has been a part of the permanent Morris display at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London for many decades. John Burrows found a group of Morris design papers among the Woodward Grosvenor archives in the late 1980s which has enabled him to work with the art studio at the mill to reissue many of the patterns in their documentary colorways. These are the only authentic Wilton and Axminster Morris carpets offered for sale today. Burrows Studio is continuing its program to commission the reintroduction of Woodward Grosvenor's Morris carpet designs for sale in the United States, and has formed an alliance in London with The Carpet Library to once again make these Morris carpets available in England.

More information on William Morris can be obtained from the William Morris Home Page, sponsored by the William Morris Society.

William Morris Carpet Designs

voysey bird pattern

For more wallpaper patterns, please also see

C.F.A. Voysey Wallpaper and Fabric


Candace Wheeler Fabric and Wallpaper.

Go to Burrow Studio Design List

Go to J.R. Burrows & Company Main Page


*J.R. Burrows & Company
P.O. Box 522
Rockland, Massachusetts 02370
E-mail: merchant@burrows.com
Phone: (800) 347-1795; Phone: (781) 982-1812 Fax: (781) 982-1636